I’d like to talk a little about “mourning” and about how it makes a huge difference in the path to transformative healing for grieving mothers and grandmothers. I also want to address how the supportive friends and family of the grieving can help make an impact in the process of mourning.
First - what’s the difference between grieving and mourning? Briefly:
Grief is inward, mourning is outward.
Grief is feeling, mourning is action.
Grief is the sadness, the rage, and all the feelings that come up when loss catapults us into grief. It’s very important to feel these feelings and to allow grief to wash over us. Sometimes it’s a gentle wash and sometimes it’s a hurricane. Grief can be tricky and relentless. We might think we're finished with grief, and then it rears its head once again, over and over again. For months. Sometimes for years. Going with the flow of grief is not easy at all - but it is necessary. And to be honest, grief doesn't give us any choice other than to experience it, whether we want to or not. Society doesn't help either because "they" want us to "get over it" but that's not how it works. Especially for bereaved mothers and grandmothers.
Mourning is the action we engage in because of our grief. It’s what we DO. Mourning, little by little, heals us. It takes a lot of effort to mourn. It’s worth it. If we don’t mourn, we can get stuck. I think we can all probably agree that we don’t want to get stuck.
Engaging in the activities of mourning is really important. I can’t stress this enough.
So I’ll say it again:
"Doing" mourning is REALLY important.
One of the interesting things about it is that it’s not one-size-fits-all. Each grieving mother or grandmother will make her own mourning experience unique, and that difference will make all the difference.
Every single grieving mother and grandmother is distinct. We each have our own personalities, temperaments, histories, and relationships with our lost children or grandchildren. What I choose to do with my feelings is not what you may choose to do with yours.
Yet some acts of mourning are universal. A few examples are: lighting a candle; visiting a peaceful place in the natural world; going to a church, chapel, synagogue or mosque on special days of remembrance; spending time at the place of burial; baking the favorite cookie of your lost loved one during the holidays; hanging photos of your loved one on a wall at home; or, supporting a meaningful cause.
Some unique examples of mourning are: creating a little lending library dedicated to your loved one; decorating a Christmas tree according to their own interests; planting a hummingbird or butterfly garden; buying and eating their favorite ice cream; or, wearing their jewelry or clothes. Unique forms of mourning have infinite possibilities.
If you are a grieving mother or grandmother, please think about something you can do today to engage in the good medicine of mourning. Then do it. It doesn't have to be big. Sometimes the smallest acts change the world. For example, put your hand on your heart and say a few words to yourself or to your lost loved one. Or, pick up a journal and start writing a letter to whoever or whatever you feel called. You know what will feel right in your journey. Then think about what you can do next week, next month, next year, to engage in the medicine of mourning. Above all, look for opportunities. Start seeing with different eyes. The more you mourn, the more natural this will become.
If you are a friend or a supportive family member of a grieving mother or grandmother, the BEST thing you can do to help support them in their journey is to help them mourn. You may think this sounds easier than it is. But honestly, if you stay in her life… if you keep calling or texting, if you show up, if you answer the phone when she reaches out, you’ll be in the unique position of being able to make suggestions (or create opportunities) for her to mourn that will suit her and her relationship with her lost child or grandchild. Think out of the box. Her life, and the lives of her family members, could be powerfully and positively impacted by what you do for her now.
So please, help her mourn.
And may God help us all.